WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Syngenta Participations AG v. Withheld for Privacy Purposes, Privacy Service Provided by Withheld for Privacy ehf / Chuks cupid
Case No. D2021-3739
1. The Parties
Complainant is Syngenta Participations AG, Switzerland, internally represented.
Respondent is Withheld for Privacy Purposes, Privacy Service Provided by Withheld for Privacy ehf, Iceland / Chuks cupid, Nigeria.
2. The Domain Name and Registrar
The disputed domain name <syngenta.ltd> is registered with NameCheap, Inc. (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on November 8, 2021. On November 9, 2021, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain name. On November 9, 2021, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response disclosing registrant and contact information for the disputed domain name which differed from the named Respondent and contact information in the Complaint. The Center sent an email communication to Complainant on November 24, 2021, providing the registrant and contact information disclosed by the Registrar, and inviting Complainant to submit an amendment to the Complaint. Complainant filed an amendment to the Complaint on November 25, 2021.
The Center verified that the Complaint, together with the amendment to the Complaint, satisfied the formal requirements of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Policy” or “UDRP”), the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Rules”), and the WIPO Supplemental Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Supplemental Rules”).
In accordance with the Rules, paragraphs 2 and 4, the Center formally notified Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on November 30, 2021. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was December 20, 2021. Respondent sent two informal emails, the first on December 2, 2021, and the second on December 3, 2021.
By way of these emails, Respondent offered to “disconnect” the disputed domain name from “service” and indicated that it did not wish to “settle” because of the “expensive settlement fee”. By email dated December 6, 2021, the Center forwarded the aforesaid communications to Complainant. Complainant advised the Center that it was willing to consider a settlement if Respondent immediately removed its website and transferred the disputed domain name. By email of January 18, 2022, Complainant requested the Center to reinstitute these proceedings. Pursuant to paragraph 6 of the Rules, on January 19, 2022, the Center informed the Parties that it would proceed with panel appointment.
The Center appointed Frederick M. Abbott as the sole panelist in this matter on January 25, 2022. The Panel finds that it was properly constituted. The Panel has submitted the Statement of Acceptance and Declaration of Impartiality and Independence, as required by the Center to ensure compliance with the Rules, paragraph 7.
4. Factual Background
Complainant is owner of registration of the word trademark and service mark SYNGENTA as an International Trademark under the Madrid System, registration number 732663, registration dated March 8, 2000, in international classes (ICs) 1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 16, 29, 30, 31, 32, 35, 36, 41, and 42, covering, inter alia, chemicals used in agriculture, and agricultural products. Such registration designates Germany, China, the Russian Federation, United Kingdom, and Viet Nam, among other countries. Complainant has also registered the SYNGENTA trademark (and service mark) on the Principal Register of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), registration number 3,036,058, registration dated December 27, 2005, in ICs 1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 16, 29, 30, 31, 32, 35, 36, 41, and 42. Complainant also owns an International Trademark registration for the word and device/design SYNGENTA trademark and service mark (registration number 1052731, dated August 25, 2010).
Complainant is a global, science-based agriculture technology company with 28,000 employees in 90 countries. Complainant’s products include agrochemicals for crop protection, as well as vegetable and flower seeds. Complainant operates a commercial website at “www.syngenta.com”, and also owns registration of various additional SYNGENTA-formative domain names. In mid-2021, Complainant proposed to undertake an initial public offering (IPO) of shares on the Shanghai STAR Market. This IPO proposal was suspended in October 2021. The IPO proposal was widely publicized during its pendency.
According to the Registrar’s verification report, Respondent is registrant of the disputed domain name. According to that report, Respondent registered the disputed domain name on September 25, 2021.
Respondent has used the disputed domain name to host a website that replicates distinctive elements Complainant’s website, including its color, its general design, replication of Complainant’s word and device logo, photo and biography of Complainant’s CEO, and embedding videos from Complainant’s YouTube channel. On its website, Respondent includes Investment Offers ranging from USD 50-USD 15,000 referring to certain products of Complainant, each investment offering payable in Bitcoin or Perfect money after an account has been established with Respondent by the Internet user. Respondent includes a Basel, Switzerland PO Box address in its contact information. Complainant is headquartered in Basel.
The registration agreement between Respondent and the Registrar subjects Respondent to dispute settlement under the Policy. The Policy requires that domain name registrants submit to a mandatory administrative proceeding conducted by an approved dispute resolution service provider, one of which is the Center, regarding allegations of abusive domain name registration and use (Policy, paragraph 4(a)).
5. Parties’ Contentions
Complainant alleges that it owns rights in the trademark SYNGENTA and that the disputed domain name is identical to that trademark.
Complainant argues that Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name because: (1) Respondent has no affiliation with Complainant and is not authorized to use its trademark; (2) the disputed domain name resolves to an active website which uses images from Complainant’s official website and YouTube channel, and; (3) Respondent’s website is being used “to offer bogus investment opportunities in Syngenta”.
Complainant contends that the disputed domain name was registered and being used in bad faith because: (1) the disputed domain name resolves to an active website offering a “bogus” chance to invest in Complainant and designed to look like an official website of Complainant; (2) Respondent is offering an opportunity to invest in Complainant which does not exist in fact, and; (3) the disputed domain name is identical to Complainant’s well-known trademark.
Complainant requests the Panel to direct the Registrar to transfer the disputed domain name to Complainant.
Respondent did not submit any substantive Response to the Complaint.
6. Discussion and Findings
It is essential to Policy proceedings that fundamental due process requirements be met. Such requirements include that a respondent have notice of proceeding that may substantially affect its rights. The Policy and the Rules establish procedures intended to ensure that respondents are given adequate notice of proceedings commenced against them and a reasonable opportunity to respond (see, e.g., Rules, paragraph 2(a)).
The Center formally notified the Complaint to Respondent at the email and physical addresses provided in its record of registration. Courier delivery to the privacy service engaged by Respondent was successfully completed. Courier delivery to Respondent could not be completed because the physical address in Respondent’s record of registration was materially incomplete. Respondent replied to email communication from the Center indicating that it had received notice of the Complaint. The Center took those steps prescribed by the Policy and the Rules to provide notice to Respondent, and those steps are presumed to satisfy notice requirements.
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy sets forth three elements that must be established by a complainant to merit a finding that a respondent has engaged in abusive domain name registration and use and to obtain relief. These elements are that:
(i) the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which complainant has rights; and
(ii) respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain name; and
(iii) the disputed domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
Each of the aforesaid three elements must be proved by a complainant to warrant relief.
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
Complainant has provided substantial evidence of rights in the trademark SYNGENTA, including by registration as an International Trademark under the Madrid System, by registration at the USPTO, and by use in commerce in a substantial number of countries (see Factual Background, supra). Respondent has not challenged Complainant’s assertion of trademark rights. The Panel determines that Complainant owns rights in the trademark SYNGENTA.
The disputed domain name directly and fully incorporates Complainant’s distinctive trademark, adding the “.ltd” top-level domain. Respondent’s direct incorporation of Complainant’s distinctive trademark in the disputed domain name establishes the identical-ness of the second-level of the disputed domain name. Addition of the “.ltd” top-level domain does not prevent confusing similarity. The Panel determines that the disputed domain name is identical and/or confusingly similar to Complainant’s trademark.1
Complainant has established that it owns rights in the trademark SYNGENTA and that the disputed domain names is identical and/or confusingly similar to that trademark.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
Complainant’s allegations to support Respondent’s lack of rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name are outlined above in section 5A, and the Panel finds that Complainant has made a prima facie showing that Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
Respondent has not substantively replied to the Complaint, and has not attempted to rebut Complainant’s prima facie showing of lack of rights or legitimate interests.
Respondent’s use of the disputed domain name to direct Internet users to a website that deceptively replicates the look and feel of Complainant’s website, including through use of its trademark and logo, adding fraudulent investment offerings to Internet users, does not establish rights or legitimate interests in favor of Respondent. It is neither a bona fide offering of goods or services nor a fair use of the disputed domain name or Complainant’s trademark.
Respondent’s use of the disputed domain names does not otherwise manifest rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
The Panel determines that Complainant has established that Respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
In order to prevail under the Policy, Complainant must demonstrate that the disputed domain name “has been registered and is being used in bad faith” (Policy, paragraph 4(a)(iii)). Paragraph 4(b) of the Policy states that “for the purposes of paragraph 4(a)(iii), the following circumstances, in particular but without limitation, if found by the Panel to be present, shall be evidence of the registration and use of a domain name in bad faith”. These include that, “(iv) by using the domain name, [the respondent has] intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to [the respondent’s] website or other online location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of [the respondent’s] website or location or of a product or service on [the respondent’s] website or location”.
Respondent registered the disputed domain name incorporating Complainant’s distinctive trademark during a timeframe when Complainant was the subject of press reporting (including on the Internet) of its proposed IPO. Respondent used the disputed domain name to create a website substantially replicating Complainant’s commercial website. Respondent was manifestly aware of Complainant’s trademark when it registered and used the disputed domain name.
Respondent is using the disputed domain name to create a website having the look and feel of Complainant’s commercial website, adding a fraudulent investment offering made to appear as associated with Complainant. Such action constitutes intentionally using Complainant’s trademark in the disputed domain name for purposes of attracting Internet users to Respondent’s website by creating a likelihood of confusion as to Complainant’s sourcing, sponsoring, affiliation with or endorsing Respondent’s website. Such action by Respondent constitutes registration and use of the disputed domain name in bad faith within the meaning of Paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy.
The Panel will direct the Registrar to transfer the disputed domain name to Complainant.
For the foregoing reasons, in accordance with paragraphs 4(i) of the Policy and 15 of the Rules, the Panel orders that the disputed domain name <syngenta.ltd> be transferred to Complainant.
Frederick M. Abbott
Date: February 8, 2022
1 The second-level domain of the disputed domain name is identical to Complainant's trademark. The Panel does not consider it necessary to determine whether addition of the descriptive ".ltd" top-level domain creates a situation of confusing similarity as compared with identical-ness. Either identical or confusingly similar suffices for an adverse finding under the first element.